What a week we have on tap! (Yes, I'm convieniently glossing over the week that was because... well, I bet on Hull.) It's a shortened program due to many clubs having FA Cup commitments. So the schedule looks like this:
West Brom v Manchester United
Cardiff v Fulham
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Norwich v Stoke Chelsea v Tottenham
Half the usual number of matches. That means that there will be a lot of teams and a lot of players on the sidelines. That list, for what it is worth, is:
As we knew was going to happen, the biggest miss will be Liverpool players. Currently, the three top-priced players in the Yahoo! game are Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, and Steven Gerrard. Many managers have all three, and on big discounts. Yes, you can move them to the bench, but that's likely 50 pounds/dollars/units on the bench, leaving only 2/3 of your budget to field eleven players. Some managers will surely field players they know will get goose eggs this week with the expectation that they'll earn more points over the course of the remaining ten matches in general, or in the upcoming double game-weeks specifically.
I'm not in any position to leave points on the table, and will field a full XI. Even if not every one on the team is a world-beater. Right now, early in the week, the team looks like so:
Value - £149.73M
Available - £0.27M
Total Points - 3087
1. Eden Hazard - £20.84M - Hazard is a tough fantasy play for me. He's listed as a forward, though truly a midfielder. On some days, he's a unplayable and will hit goals for fun. On others, he's not involved in the match and will only return a handful of fantasy points. This week, he's a premium option actually playing, so I'm willing to take a chance on him. It's a "big" game against a "top" side, so hopefully he'll be motivated. Also, Spurs have not looked good, even in victory, for a few weeks now, and they could get shown up by Chelsea.
2. Robin van Persie £19.80M - The other top side in action this week, and I'm going on reputation here, is Manchester United. Robin van Persie has scored in all but one of the Premier League matches he's played in since his return from injury. It hasn't always been pretty, but at least the potential is there. West Brom have had moments this season, and indeed winning 1-2 at Old Trattford was probably the highlight so far, but have also played poorly at times. Manchester United is a pretty good road team, while West Brom haven't been great at home. Van Persie is a good be for returns, as would be Wayne Rooney (slightly cheaper) or even Juan Mata (much cheaper).
3. Ashkan Dejagah £7.59M - Betting on Fulham. What will he try to sell us next!?! But bear with me. Remember, we're dealing with a limited set of options here. Dejagah showed his quality against West Brom and while he didn't do anything against Chelsea - who does? He knows new manager, Felix Magath, from their time together at Wolfsburg, and Magath seems to trust the Iranian. They are on the road, Cardiff at home isn't great shakes. These two teams are at the bottom of the League form table, and it would be even worse if they hadn't each beaten Norwich by the odd goal recently. Yet, despite all that, I'm expecting an interesting match, and I think there are fantasy points to be had.
4. Lewis Holtby £6.36M - Another player with experience working with Magath, yet Holtby does not seem to have the manager's trust. I'm willing to chalk off his benching against Chelsea as a tactical move, and the player who replaced him in the starting lineup, Clint Dempsey, has returned to his parent club, MLS' Seattle Sounders. So I expect Holtby to start, and I expect that he'll be a attacking fulcrum and have set-piece duties.
5. Steven Davis £9.19M - I really, really want Steven Davis to be a great fantasy player. I've wanted that for him since his days with Aston Villa and Fulham. But despite playing in an attacking midfield role, he's never been a must-have player. He's a key player in Southampton's high-pressing game, which explains why, despite his advanced positionon the field, his role is a more defensive one. Despite these limitation, on a week like this, I think Davis a a good bet to at least return value, and not break the bank doing so.
6. Marouane Fellaini £10.84M - Fellaini had a good return to action against Crystal Palace. He was his usual brutal, but effective, self. He's a bit expensive for where he might play and what United has been this season, but we know what he's capable of, and this would be the week to invest.
7. Tom Ince £7.85M - The last two weeks have been very disappointing for fantasy managers who invested in Ince. After his goal and assist from "the hole" he's returned 5 points over two weeks from the wing. It seems that Glen Murray's return has limited Ince's role, rather than enchancing his potential. However, and here we go again with the "however" this week, he's at home, and for the price he seems a better bet than a lot of similarly priced midfielders.
8. Phil Jones £9.93M - Jones should be back from injury, and he has been an almost sure starter when available, either in defence of midfield. Indeed a midfield of Jones and Fellaini - well, the mind reels! This one will require some inspection and some though closer to the deadline, but for now it seems like a good gamble.
9. Branislav Ivanovic £11.09M - Disappointing against Fulham, but no reason to jump off the bandwagon now. Ivanovic and company can shut out any team on their day, and the complacency that may have crept into their play against Fulham shouldn't reappear against Spurs. Meanwhile, disappointed fantasy managers know that this Spurs side can struggle to generate an attack.
10. Fabio £7.62M - A bit exspensive, but getting starts and getting forward from right back. He probably should have had a goal last week against Spurs, but couldn't get his shot off at the crucial moment. I'm not sure I'll stick with him this weekend, but that being said, the similarly priced options seem limited to Fulham's Sasha Reither. So maybe I will.
11. John Ruddy £6.78M - Another week, another gamble on a cheap keeper. Last week Alan McGregor and Hull broke my heart. This week, I'm betting on Ruddy and Norwich's home form. Looking at Ruddy's returns, he's been good at home posting several clean sheets, and terrible on the road, as evidenced by his allowing four goals to Aston Villa. But that showing knocked his price down, and I'll be happy to take advantage of that.
Luis Suarez £19.70M - Not selling. No, sir.
Martin Kelly £1.20M - Still a bargain-priced enabler.
Ryan Bertrand £1.00M - Another enabler, but one I'm willing to start on another week (like one where he has a match). Joe Hart £9.94M - I can't wait for Joe Hart to come back, and play Manchester City's matches in hand. I knew he was a good value, because despite not being a water-tight defence, Manchester City won't let in too many and will get Hart win points most weeks. I miss that security now, more than ever. Come back soon, Joe! And bring a healthy Sergio Aguero back with you!